Saturday 17 July 2010

Sweet Dreams: Inception Inspection

"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realise something was actually strange."

In my dream last night I drove to a house I'd never seen before to pick up someone I've known for over 20 years, then we drove to some waste ground where we saw a rat appear and disappear, then I joined a queue to be given a kids' Shrek soft-drink cup, and then we climbed some stairs in the dark to watch Chris Nolan's new film.

And then I woke up and it was all real.

Let me first say that Inception is a bugger of a film to review, especially without giving too much away. I could say it's a Bond/Bourne movie by way of Eternal Sunshine with a dash of Matrix, but that would be selling it short. And I wouldn't dream of doing that.....

The ( high ) concept of the film is spelled out in the trailer in an exchange between Dom Cobb ( Leo Di Caprio ) and Ariadne ( Ellen Page ) :
Cobb: "We create the world of a dream. We bring a subject into that dream and they fill it with their secrets."
Ariadne: "Then you break in and steal it?"
Cobb: "Well, it's not strictly speaking legal."

Cobb and his crew are experts in extraction, the process of stealing information from people's dreams. They're offered a tantalising job offer by Ken Watanabe's corporate king, Saito - plant an idea in his major competitor's dreams, a subconscious instruction to dismantle his own business empire. This is the supposedly impossible art of inception. Cobb is sure it can be done; he's done it before. What his associates don't know is the price Cobb paid before, and what price they will all pay this time.

If this all sounds too cerebral, forget it! The concept is a hook for Nolan to hang on some of the most exciting, outrageous action scenes and gob-smacking dream sequences you've ever seen. Or ever dreamed of. There are car chases, foot chases and shoot-outs that out-perform Quantum Of Solace; there are beautiful, surreal images of landscapes twisting, bending and shattering around the protagonists ( including a dream-Paris being destroyed yet again ) ; and the mind-bending concept of dreams-within-dreams - Cobb's crew all fighting different enemies whilst ascending and descending seemingly endless layers of dreams, with the "real" world at the top and a subconscious "limbo" at the bottom level.

Nolan masterfully orchestrates all this mayhem - the zero-gravity battles, the Bond-esque assault on a snowbound fortress, the collapsing dreamworlds - and grounds it in the simple plot-thread of Cobb's desperate desire to return to his estranged family and country.

"I think I found a way home. And this last job, that's how I get there."

Well, it's not that simple. Cobb's wife, Mal, is an initially enigmatic character whose explosive appearances throughout the story lead up to the shattering emotional truth about Cobb, his family and his world. As played by the luminous Marion Cotillard, Mal is a dangerous and heartbreakingly sad character, the walking, talking, borderline-insane testament to the perils of inception. Di Caprio, who is surely now one of America's finest actors, is at his intense best in his scenes with Cotillard. No matter how surreal the dream worlds become you care for these characters and hope against hope it will work out for them in the end.

There are also fine performances by Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy, with a seriously under-written Michael Caine turning up to do very little.....
.....And then I write some more, but my fingers become clumsy at the keyboard, my eyes start to close, my breathing slows, I start to dream.....
I'm writing a blog about Chris Nolan's new movie. Do I call it "Inception Inspection" or "Inception Dissection"? What's my perception of Inception? Why is the room starting to move around me? I look out of the window..... things start to collapse.....

Soundtrack: Life's Rich Pageant by REM.
( Remember when they were one of the best bands in the world? A long time ago?)


Scare Sarah said...

Dreams ar fascinating, aren't they? And sleep in general. I talk in my sleep and sometimes get up and walk around. This film looks great, good post.

Simon B said...

Thanks for commenting, Sarah. It's always good to hear from you.

Watching any film at the cinema is a kind of shared dream: coming into contact with the imagination of the film-makers. And Inception is a dream I'd definitely recommend!

On the subject of sleep-walking etc., I've done my share of that too. Might be a good subject for a future post...

Jaccstev said...

Saw this film too lately and I'm agree with your review. Truly one of the best films if not the best I've seen this year.

Simon B said...

Hi Jaccstev! Thanks for commenting. I'll have to see Inception again soon - one viewing isn't enough!

Capes on Film said...

Another great review. Still trying to work out a few things about the flick in my head but certainly one of the best SF movies ever. Makes one ponder what Nolan has in store for the Superman franchise, eh?

Simon B said...

Hi Matthew, I've only just noticed your comment! Nolan is surely the best choice to bring Supes into the 21st century, while hopefully retaining all that makes the character great.


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